tv Q A at 10 CSPAN January 2, 2015 7:00pm-8:03pm EST
ason. here's the last one in the series from september. ♪ >> this week, our guest is rory kennedy, who speaks about her film "last days in vietnam." >> we are racing down the runway. running along grabbing there. we are pulling them along as best as we can. impossible to stop the crowd. you're pulling away, leaving them behind, people are falling
off. the plane is taking off. >> as the north vietnamese army close in on saigon and south vietnamese resistance crumbled, the skeletal staff of military personnel began to consider the imprisonment of their coworkers. with an official evacuation of south vietnamese held up individual americans and south vietnamese took matters into their own hands to execute the evacuation and save as many south vietnamese as possible. ms. kennedy talks about her career as a filmmaker. she is the daughter of robert f kennedy and ethel kennedy. >> rory kennedy, can you remember when you first were even aware that there was a vietnam war?
>> well, i was 7 when the events took place that we document in the film of the last days of the war, which was 1975. you know, there is not a moment where i remember vietnam, but i feel like it was kind of in the ether of my childhood. it was in my consciousness. i have always felt this is a kind of seminal event in our nation's history, and i was really happy to have the opportunity to revisit vietnam and through this particular story of the final days of the war. >> did you go there at all? >> i never went to vietnam. my intention was to go there. you know, the story that i wanted to tell, from the vietnamese perspective, is about the vietnamese who were left behind and what happened to them. but we were told that, and i did extensive research, that nobody in vietnam would talk to us about this time in history
particularly who had been imprisoned or tortured or where, you know, they kind of struggled in the aftermath of the war. that there is still fear and concerns of government retaliation and repercussions. so that -- because our story is 100% in 1975, you know, really in those final days, there's not really a big story to be told about what's going on in vietnam today, other than what happened to the people left behind, which is, obviously, a significant part of our story. but we ended up finding a number of people who are in america who helped provide that perspective. >> how do you and your husband divide up the responsibilities on something like this? >> well, technically, i'm the producer and director, and he's the writer. but mark is really my partner in all of my feature documentaries. you know, we decide whether i should do them together, often
and he, from the beginning when i'm doing interviews and selecting characters and kind of the general direction of the story, he is a part of all of those discussions. sometimes they're formal in the office. sometimes, you know, it's over dinner or with the kids screaming across from us. he really plays an essential role and particularly in this film which, i would say, the biggest challenge for us was in the edit room because it was such a complicated story. there were so many perspectives so it was trying to kind of orient the audience, some of whom are familiar with vietnam some of whom aren't, to know what was happening. and we didn't use a narrator. we didn't use any historians or experts looking back. it's all kind of in real time. so that made it challenging. so he played a huge role, along with my editor, don kleszy, and
we had a great producer-writer kevin mccallister. >> what was the biggest help initially, in getting your kind of parameters on this story? and how many days are involved in the documentary? >> well, we knew we wanted to take on the last days of vietnam, and, you know, i think a lot of us are familiar with the iconic image of the helicopter going off of what we think is the embassy. it's, in fact, not the embassy. >> what is that building, by the way? >> it was a cia outpost, basically. initially, the plan was there was 13 buildings that helicopters -- if they had to resort to what was option four four options, which was a helicopter airlift. there was 13 buildings that they were going to have helicopters leave from. but once they called for the evacuation by playing the song "white christmas" throughout the
streets of saigon, if you recall from the film, then the streets got so crowded and overrun with people, you know, largely south vietnamese that nobody could get to those buildings. so they ended up centering the entire evacuation out of the embassy. >> but what was it that you saw or read that capsulized all this for you early? >> well -- so there were -- i would say there were two things. one is -- so i was familiar with that iconic image and i wanted to understand that more and what had happened, right? and i thought i knew a lot and you know, as i did the research, i was really blown away by the actual events and what took place and how dramatic they were and how i knew very, very little of it and how important it seemed. so part of my interest was to share those events with people because i found that a lot of other people didn't know what happened.
and then, we started to uncover these really extraordinary stories of americans and vietnamese who went against u.s. policy, which, at that point, was to just get the americans out of the country because the north was coming in so fast. and saigon fell so much quicker than anybody expected. south vietnam fell much quicker than anybody expected. so the policy -- there was about 6,000 americans on the ground, at that point. we had signed the paris peace accord in 1973 and so there was a peace. so there were no troops in the country and so it was people who were military personnel who were protecting the embassy and, you know, advisors and whatnot. so the idea was to just get them out of the country. and these americans who were on the ground basically said not so fast. we have our south vietnamese allies, people we worked with, many of them had wives and children who were south vietnamese and they weren't
about to just leave them behind. and so, you know, once i started uncovering and getting deeper into those stories, then i was you know, really excited because i felt like these stories nobody knew. and for so many americans, vietnam is such a dark moment in our history. and the acts of these men who were there were so heroic and courageous. and, you know, when i watch the film, even though i've seen it so many times, it really makes me proud of them, you know, in this kind of wave of history moving against them and this tide, that they did the right thing. >> where did you go to high school? >> i went to madeira. >> right out here in the suburbs of washington. >> yes. >> and you went to brown university? >> yes, i went to brown. >> did anyone at madeira or at brown teach you anything about the vietnam war? >> at brown, yes. i took a course on vietnam.
so there was a course really dedicated to vietnam, which i took. but this story was not part of that curriculum. so i did not know this story. >> so many people today say that no one ever teaches them about the vietnam war. and there isn't a lot taught. but why isn't there a lot taught, in your opinion? and what are the lessons of vietnam? before we get into that, we're going to show some excerpts from the film. >> right. well, i would say there are many lessons about vietnam. in terms of what i feel like i've learned in making this film is -- and having a deeper appreciation for getting out of a war after having made this film, that i feel that there were very few options available by april 29, 1975, or even in early april when it became pretty clear that the country was going to fall. and, you know, we were trying to
get congress -- or kissinger and ford were trying to get congress to pass a bill that would, you know, provide $722 million to the vietnamese during those final hours. i think that would've been helpful and made some difference, but i don't think it would've changed things so dramatically. so what it says, to me, is that the real choice that you have is when you enter a war. and once you enter a war especially when it goes a direction that you don't anticipate, which is losing, there are virtually no options. so, you know, that decision of entering a war and understanding, i think, from the beginning, what the exit strategy is, what the goals are, what the timeline is, and having an appreciation for what the impact is going to be, because -- you know, another thing that, i think in making this film has taught me is the reminder of the human cost of
war, you know, which is significant and which you see in watching this film. and i think, sometimes, gets lost in the debate about what we're doing and the strategies and the plans. you know, what is -- what's the cost on the ground to the people who are most directly impacted and affected? >> let's watch about two minutes of this. and it shows the north vietnamese coming south back then and get you to explain some more. [video clip] >> this is the way my map looked mid april. the north vietnamese just rolled down the coast. saigon was clearly threatened. the situation was urgent. "urgent" understates it. >> at this time, ambassador martin had been back in washington, trying to persuade washington to vote additional aid.
he came back to saigon, and my boss, the cia station chief, said, go down and tell the old man what's happening. i went in and i said, mr. ambassador, half of the south vietnamese army has disintegrated. we're in grave trouble. please, sir, plan for an evacuation. at least allow us to begin putting together lists of south vietnamese we should rescue. and he said, no, frank. it's not so bleak, and i won't have this negative talk. young officers in the embassy began to mobilize black operation, meaning a makeshift underground railway evacuation using outgoing cargo aircraft that would be totally below the radar of the ambassador.
>> people, like myself and others, took the bull by the horns and organized an evacuation. in my case, that meant friends of mine who were senior officers in the south vietnamese military. as the north vietnamese came closer and closer to saigon, these people were dead men walking. >> go back to the ambassador graham martin. what part did he play in this? >> so graham martin was the ambassador, and he was really the gatekeeper, in some sense. and he had the ability to green light the evacuation plan. the evacuation plan is created by the military but the ability to approve it and to put it in motion is really left in the hands of the ambassador.
graham martin had lost a son in the vietnam war. he was very dedicated to preserving south vietnam. he didn't want to see us walk away from south vietnam. and i think, largely, for those reasons, he was resistant to putting an evacuation plan into place and green lighting it when everybody, most people, both on the ground and, to some degree in washington, realized that south vietnam was going to fall and that it was inevitable. >> frank snepp, former cia agent, and very controversial, was sued by our own government. why did you pick him as a spokesman? >> well, we were really committed to finding people who were on the ground who had -- who were, you know, in the embassy, who were in saigon at the end of april when things were falling. and he was -- he was there. he was -- he was sued by our government because he wrote a book about the events that took
place. i don't believe that he was sued because he misrepresented those events. i think he was sued because he wasn't supposed to share them in the capacity that he did. so -- but the reality is that he had very good first-hand knowledge and, i think, helps us explain the story for folks and to understand exactly what happened. >> where is he today? >> he's in los angeles. >> doing what? what kind of work? >> i know that he is writing some scripts or pitching some ideas to make into films. but i don't know if he has a job behind that. >> and scott herrington -- you see -- >> stu herrington. >> i mean, stu herrington. you see a lot of him during the film. who is he? >> yeah. so stu herrington was a captain in the u.s. army. and he plays a significant role, both because he was kind of at the forefront of these event as we document them, and he also
helped on a number of levels getting vietnamese out of the country. he was one of the people, as this clip shows, started black operation, black ops, in mid april when it was very clear to him that the country was going to fall and that the -- he wasn't getting approval from the ambassador. and so he started getting high-risk vietnamese out of the country with a group of other people. he would, basically, have a meeting spot, put them in vans take them to the airport, and send them off on cargo aircraft. so he kind of helped initiate that effort. he also continues on, where our story ends up, landing, which is embassy on aril 29, 1975 when the evacuation is really underway, and he helped start that evacuation. and he is there to the bitter end.
he was in a particularly difficult predicament where he stayed throughout the night. and the ambassador doesn't come across very well in that clip, but he does, to some degree, redeem himself later in the film when you see that he was asked to be one of the first -- the first person to leave the embassy on a helicopter. he was told he needed to go. and he refused to get on the helicopter. he wanted to get as many vietnamese out as possible. and so he, among others, were trying to fill the helicopters with south vietnamese knowing that once all the americans got out that the u.s. government would stop the evacuation. so he played a big role in that. but, in any case -- so coming back to stuart herrington, he, then, stayed there throughout the night, also helping vietnamese get on these helicopters. and about 3:45 in the morning, martin got a presidential order
saying that he had to get on the next helicopter out which i think was the second to the last helicopter. so the ambassador left at 3:45 and then -- probably the third to the last helicopter. and then, they were told that there were going to be no more helicopters sent for vietnamese. so stu herrington was in a terrible position where he had to tell the 420 vietnamese who were left behind who were still in the embassy, and he had to tell them that, you know, they weren't on american soil so while he wasn't going to leave until they all left, and he left them in the courtyard and he said he was going out to go to the bathroom and he walked around the backside of the building and he walked up the staircase to a helicopter that was waiting on the roof. and so as the sun was coming up, he looked down at these 420 people who were left behind. and, you know, he thought how wrong this was and how it kind of encapsulated the whole
vietnam war in that moment. >> do you have any idea -- we have about a million and a half vietnamese with some connection. i mean, there are a lot of children that have been born since those days. we have very few iraqis -- very few iraqis are even allowed into the country after that war. why did we bring so many into this country from vietnam and so few from iraq or even afghanistan? >> right. well, the events of this film and in those few -- those last moments, there were about 130,000 vietnamese who were able to get out of the country. and then, over the next couple decades, there were, you know, the plight of the boat people where millions of vietnamese fled vietnam. and some of them were able to get to america, but hundreds of thousands died during those voyages.
i think -- you know, it's a curious thing. i think, with vietnam and the vietnamese people, we did have a profound connection to them. and, you know, i don't think you you see the marriage rates that -- you know, in iraq and afghanistan between soldiers and iraqis and afghanis. you know, our soldiers married a lot of vietnamese and had a lot of vietnamese children. so i think the relationship between the two countries -- and we really fought side by side with them in a pretty united fashion. so i think that it was -- there were different wars and different cultures and different people. so i think it speaks to kind of those larger cultural issues and the natures of those wars. >> here's some more video for somebody my age. i remember this like it was yesterday. the helicopters being pushed off
the ship. the ship is -- the name of the ship? >> the u.s.s. kirk. >> and the helicopters belonged to? >> the helicopters belonged to the south vietnamese air force which had then fallen apart. and so if i -- can you give me a moment to set this up? >> sure. >> so what was happening is there was a fleet out in the south china sea, the u.s. fleet. and there were helicopters going from that fleet. u.s. helicopters going to the embassy, picking people up bringing the back to the fleet. and then what happened is the south vietnamese air force had disintegrated, but the pilots were still there, and they still had their helicopters. so they then started getting in their helicopters, filling them to capacity and beyond, with their families and friends and chasing the u.s. helicopters out to sea, not knowing where they
were going, if they would be able to land, having no communication with the united states, but feeling that the risk of going out to sea and not knowing where you're going to land was less than the risk of staying behind and what might happen to them. so the u.s.s. kirk was monitoring the waters between the fleet and the land and so was the first point for these helicopters to see. the u.s.s. kirk didn't know who they were or what was happening but they took the risk to take the first one down. and here's the clip. >> this is less than a minute. we'll watch it. [video clip] >> we had to disarm them. >> none of them have ever landed on a ship before. they were a vietnamese air force. everybody had a gun and -- [indiscernible] and about five minutes later
another one came in and landed. and we pushed his airplane over the side. that was the second one, and i helped push that one over, too. and the third plane came in. it landed also. we pushed it over the side. so meanwhile, we've thrown three helicopters in the water so far. this is incredible. i know you probably don't believe any of this but it's all true. >> how many helicopters were pushed over the side? >> i know for the u.s.s. kirk, i think it was 17, is my recollection. i think there were about 157 people that they saved due to pulling -- bringing the helicopters down. the issue with the u.s.s. kirk is it was not one of the ships from the fleet, and so it wasn't meant to land helicopters. so it only had space for one helicopter. and so then, you know, the question was, well, what do we do? we can't land another helicopter if we keep these helicopters on
board. so then the captain said, you know, throw them overboard. and i said, well, did you get approval from washington for that? no, absolutely not. we were -- we just made the decision on the fly, and, you know, we would live with the consequences. but -- so they really had no choice. and people ask, well, why didn't they just, you know, get some pilots and throw them in the helicopters and go back? but, of course, they didn't have the gas. they didn't have pilots on board. they didn't have the wherewithal to do that. and that it -- the helicopters that the u.s. had were chinook helicopters which could fit 50 people in them, and these smaller huey helicopters can only, really comfortably, fit four, maybe six. >> yes, you told us earlier you were -- i think you were actually 6 when this -- the end came.
you that would turn 7 later on that year? >> yes, i guess, technically. >> but how did -- you know, you and your husband put this together. he wrote it. you produced it, directed it. how did you protect yourself from -- there are a lot of people from vietnam, i mean americans that are still alive from knowing the facts on this? how did you do that and -- because you're going to face a lot of people asking you questions about the vietnam war. >> yes, you know, we did a lot of research and it was interesting the research process because there were so many conflicting reports. and i think part of why things got to the point where, you know, helicopters were landing on the embassies and -- or on the embassy roof was in part because of the communication breakdown. and, you know, that was real what was happening, what washington knew, the information they were basing on the -- you know, the 420 people left behind. kissinger claims that he only learned that, you know, in 1992 or something, and that that was
in hearing stuart herrington's story for the first time. he never knew that. he though that when they were -- this is what he claims -- that when they sent the last helicopter that they were getting the last people out of the embassy. so my point is that there was so much misunderstanding on the ground and miscommunications that it took a lot of double sourcing things, you know, getting multiple perspectives on the same events, trying to get you know, really, to the truth of it. but i'm happy to say that we have, you know, screened it in multiple cities now, and it's on the brink of its theatrical release. it just came out in new york. and, you know, so far, there have not been any major claims of misinformation. there was one little thing that i think we got wrong but i think most about "white christmas" we have it as a bing crosby version and it wasn't. but other than that, there's been no, you know, significant
factual corrections. >> whose version was it? >> it was -- >> the ink spots had a version i think. >> no, it wasn't the ink spots. i can't remember but it was -- it was supposed to be bing crosby's version, but then, again, things got very hectic and the people in -- air force radio couldn't find his version and so they put a different one on. but it's still debated but that seems to be correct. >> what documentary is this for you? how many? >> i think i've made about 40 documentaries at this point, that i have either produced or directed. >> where do you live? >> i live in los angeles. >> why there? >> my husband, mark, is a screenwriter. so we moved from brooklyn to l.a. about five years ago. >> how old are the kids? >> georgia is about to turn 12 bridget is 10, and zachary is 7. >> how long did you work on this documentary? >> 14 months. >> total? >> from when we started
development until we locked picture. >> how long is it? >> it's 97 minutes. >> and what kind of an exhibit is it going to have? is it theaters, television -- >> it's in theaters, so it's had its theatrical premiere in new york on september 5 and it's opening in d.c. on september 12, this friday. and it will go to about 15 cities, total, theatrically. we're also doing community screenings and, ultimately, it will premiere on pbs on "american experience" in april which will be the 40th anniversary of the fall of saigon. >> here's some more from your documentary. >> thank you. [video clip] >> i went with my wife to the embassy. a lot of people, they clinged to
the top of the wall, but they couldn't get in. >> each gate was besieged like that, although the side gate was the principal place where they came. people holding letters saying, you know, i worked for the americans. please let me in. journalists were arriving and counting on being recognized to be let in by the marines. >> there was a sea of people wanting to get out by helicopters, but, well, they looked up at the helicopters
leaving, and i could see their eyes, desperate eyes. >> who is the vietnamese gentlemen? >> that's dan pham. and he was really an extraordinary man who, you know, as so many vietnamese, at the time, tried desperately to get out of -- out of the country. he had worked with the u.s. government and so he was particularly vulnerable. he had been promised a way out through the company he had been working with but then they left and said that the plan for evacuating people fell apart because it was supposed to happen after the country fell. so he was left. >> he had an opportunity to get out of the country, at one point, but it would have meant leaving his family and others
behind so he, ultimately, chose to stay. but he, then, spent 13 years in hard labor in a reeducation camp. >> did he talk to you about it? >> yes, of course. >> what did he tell you? >> you know, it was rough. he barely survived. he said it was -- there was very little food to eat. some -- you know, often one meal a day. and they work from around the clock. many people died over the course of those years that he was there. he -- i talked to him about a week after the interview that we did. it was probably an hour and a
half interview that we did and he told me that he was still a little bit shaken by it. >> you know, i think that to bring these memories up for him was very difficult. and he was one of the few people -- the film premiered at the sundance film festival and i invited him to join us there. and he wouldn't come because it's too hard for him to watch the movie. so he hasn't seen the film yet and i don't know that he will. >> i read that 38% of the vietnamese in this country live in california, a lot of them in southern california. do you notice the vietnamese there where you're -- >> a lot of them live in orange county. and i don't spend a lot of time in orange county but i have been to little saigon, they call that, and it's amazing. then -- you know, there are pockets of vietnamese in other communities but it's largely orange county. >> how many different vietnamese that came to this country did you talk to to find somebody to explain it? were there others, besides this gentleman? >> well, there are a number of vietnamese who are interviewed in the film, i think maybe five are in the film, if i had to guess. i don't know the exact number. and then, we interviewed a few more who didn't end up making it in the final version of the
film. but, you know, it was very important to me to -- you know this is "last days in vietnam." it's very much a film from american's perspective, largely. but it's -- you know, the heart of the film is understanding what it meant to leave the vietnamese behind so their perspective is essential. >> you talked to henry kissinger. how much time did he give you? >> he said he would give me 45 minutes and he ended up giving me about an hour and a half. >> what did you learn from it that you didn't expect? >> well, you know, i think that what was surprising, to me about the interview is i felt that he was emotionally present and invested in recalling these events. and i was struck by the -- his ability -- he was, i think, 89 at the time that i interviewed
him. to recall every event that i asked him about, down to often the minute of when it took place, the information that he had and the decisions he made, based on the information he had at that time. so that was both helpful because, you know, we rely, in this film, on our interviewees to explain events to us, because we don't have a narrator. so he was able to, i think document what happened from washington's perspective during this tumultuous period. >> how much of the interviewing do you do? >> i did probably 95% of it. >> and what's your experience from interviewing people? will they give you a straight answer? will they give you the truth? >> i think they do. >> and if you don't get it, how do you -- what do you do?
>> you know, i think that people have their own perspective and i don't -- you know, i don't -- i don't try -- you know, i don't believe in a single truth, right? so -- and i think that that was very evident in making this film, that there were people with a lot of different perspectives. there were some people -- for example, there was one person who argued that there was nobody at the embassy. the chaos of the embassy is a myth. you know, but, of course everybody else talked about the numbers of people at the embassy and how chaotic it was and there's the footage to show it. so it's a -- it's an odd thing that, you know, you can have people who were present at the same event but, of course, it was 40 years ago and their recollections are different. but i think, you know, part of it is the choices you make, as a film maker, and who you trust. >> so for example, stuart herrington plays a significant
role in this film because he's -- i think, comes across as a trustworthy narrator of events. he's believable and he feels like he is emotionally present and he is also present throughout all of the events and the time period that we're focused on. >> here's the story of a vietnamese pilot, i believe in a chinook, a big helicopter that flew out with his family. and we'll listen to a little of this and get you to comment on it. >> ok, great. [video clip] >> my mom grabbed my little sister, who was about six months at the time, and little brother who was about three or four years old, myself, we quickly ran into the chinook. and we all flew off out into the pacific ocean.
my dad's afraid for not having enough fuel, afraid for a lot of things. he was just flying blind. and then, he saw a ship out there. it was way too big to land. we thought that the helicopter would just fly away. but as the ship was moving forward, probably four, five six knots, something like that and the pilot communicated that he was running low on fuel. >> he opened up the port side of the helicopter and he hovered across to the stern of the kirk. now, all of a sudden, here comes a human. >> one by one, we jump out. i jumped out and my brother jumped out. my mom was holding my sister obviously very scared, and she just -- you know, just
trustingly, just with one hand with her right hand, holding on with her left to brace herself you know, just dropped my baby sister. >> that footage comes from what source? >> well, i was very fortunate with this -- with this footage because what i was -- when i was developing this film, i was in contact with a guy names jan hermann who worked with the u.s. navy. and he -- i was saying that i wanted to tell the story of the u.s.s. kirk in this film. and he said, oh, you know, i have a friend who was on the kirk. and he was -- he was talking to me, the other day, and said that he was up in his attic, and he found a box of undeveloped footage and it was all of the kirk, and including this extraordinary story where, you know, the pilot drops his family, including his baby onto the boat.
>> and here, he had been -- he can't -- his helicopter is too big to land and so he jumps out of the helicopter and then the helicopter goes crashing down and he goes crashing down and everybody thinks he's died and they've watched it and now his family's on board on the ship and it's very emotional. so this is danly sara's footage. and over on the right there, you can -- this is the son. over on the right side of the screen there, you can see the helicopter pilot. >> how many hours of footage -- and the gentleman's name that shot the footage, again? >> danly sara. >> and how many hours did he give you? >> he gave us -- i think it was about 10 canisters of, maybe eight-minute footage, eight minutes of footage each. >> and how much in the -- >> i think we used 12 minutes in the film, as i recall. it was amazing. >> did you -- what was your reaction when you learned that he had that? >> well, you know, the guy said, do you want danly sara's number? and i said, yes, give me his number immediately. and i called him the next morning and i was, then, in california, and he was outside of washington d.c.
and he was very protective of the footage, so he wouldn't fedex it out to me. but i think sent him an airplane ticket and flew him out to california and we developed the footage out there. and it was really -- you know, it was a treasure trove. so right at the end of that sequence, all that footage is shot, it was his footage. he, then, -- there is footage on the ship where the father reunites with his children and his family and that's all his footage. at the end of the film, there's a story about richard armitage where he helps save 30,000 vietnamese. and that whole story is documented through danly sara's footage, so. >> we're going to run that but before we do, i heard you talk about richard armitage somewhere else and you didn't tell the story there, that he end up in prison in the philippines? >> yes, he did. >> how? >> he ended up in prison. well, you know, he didn't get authorization to bring 30,000 people to the philippines. he said -- when i interviewed
him, i said, well, you just decided to take 30,000 people? and he said, well, i decided i'd rather beg forgiveness than ask for permission. so you know, -- and i think he expected, at that point, they might say no because there was you know, a sense that there were a lot of vietnamese coming out of the country and that the u.s. wasn't going to be able to handle it. but, anyway -- so he made the executive decision on the fly to bring these folks with him and went to the philippines and he got arrested there. i think he spent maybe two or three nights in some makeshift jail and a friend of his somehow, rescued him. >> was it a filipino jail or an american there? >> i think it was an american jail. >> so it was connected with the military. >> yes, it was connected to the military, that's my recollection. >> and richard armitage went on to do what? >> from there? >> no. >> oh, no.
well, then, he went -- you know, he worked under powell. and so he's -- you know, he's played a significant role during the bush administration. >> let's watch that clip. >> ok. [video clip] >> there are no words to describe what a ship looks like that holds 200 and it's got 2,000 on it. i don't think anybody really understood the magnitude of it until we looked at what we've got in front of us. it looked like something out of exodus. our mission was to help the ships into international waters. but now, they had all these people. my reaction is, how the hell are we going to do this? most of the vietnamese and navy ships were dead in the water some were anchored, some were just adrift. so we sent over our engineering mechanical people to see what we could do to help them and get
them on their way. >> we had worked a plan out to sail two ships to the philippines and the kirk was going to escort them. but the fact that they were going to be crammed with an unknown number of civilians was somewhat problematic. the u.s. government already had a refugee problem with the u.s. naval ships. this was another 30,000 or more people to deal with. >> we were up all night talking about it and i'm convinced if we sent them back or took them back, they would've killed them all. and armitage decided to bring them. he didn't get permission from washington to do that. >> i thought it was a lot easier to beg forgiveness than to get permission. so the decision was made and they all went with us.
>> that's danly sara's footage, you know, so it really captures this moment. i mean, all of those people -- what's so extraordinary, to me, about that is, you know, these are people who have just lost their country. and all of them have -- they don't have a bag with them. they have the shirt on their back. many of them had separated from their families. and it's such an extraordinary moment to imagine -- i mean, imagine losing america and being on a ship heading out to sea you know, without any family or any connection to where you are going. and that's the story of each and every one of those.
and they went to the philippines -- some of them went from the philippines into guam. but most of them ended up coming, eventually, to the united states and resettling here. and, you know, it's been such a successful story of culture and population coming into this country and they've contributed so much. and i'll say that it's one of the great things about having done this film is showing it to the vietnamese community because, i think, for them, they really haven't had the opportunity to kind of process this event and, i think, be recognized, in this country, for what they went through to get here. >> has anybody -- not that this happen directly, but thanked richard armitage for what -- over the years, for what they did for them? >> i don't think they have and i really think he's deserving of some medal for what he -- you know, i got an e-mail from his son, many months ago, saying thank you for sharing this story.
i never knew this about my father. you know, i don't think he's the one to kind of boast about himself which i really appreciate about him. but, you know, i think, if i was responsible for saving 30,000 people, i might mention it to at least a few people. >> before we run out of time, i want to talk about some of the other documentaries you've done. this one will be very familiar to people. it was an hbo documentary. it's a couple years ago. it's called "ethel." here's the trailer. >> thanks. [video clip] >> why should i have to answer all of these questions? >> well, we're making a documentary about you. >> because i was born six months after my father's death, i never had a chance to know him. i was raised by my mother, ethel kennedy. >> so was it love at first
sight? >> it was. wow. >> my parents weren't bedrock democrats, but i just totally put the republican part behind me. the children were always included in everything we did. i think it probably made them more interesting. any occasion that there was to >> have a party, there'd be a party. >> she had every single member of president kennedy's cabinet knocked into the swimming pool. >> win, that was important trying hard, not part of the culture. >> losing isn't any fun, i'll tell you. especially after daddy died.
we learned sports from mommy. while the rest of the world was grieving and the family was grieving, she saw the best in it. >> nobody gets a free ride. everybody faces friends who have died, a family. >> what do you attribute your success to? i think just the effort that we made in the campaign and ethel. >> your sister, carrie, and courtney and your brother joe and there's others in that documentary. how did -- before we talk about your mother for a second, how did you get to know your dad? he was gone when you arrived six months later after the assignation. but how have you gotten to know him over the years? >> well, i think that, you know, through my mother and my siblings, primarily, and the people who knew him. i think, you know, i also learned about him in school and history books. and then, you know, over the years, one of the things that's been so just wonderful, for me is taking these films out, going to different places, you know, travelling to africa and south america. and, inevitably, people come up to me and tell stories about -- and they're all first-hand stories of meeting him and having some kind of extraordinary moment. and it's a -- it's really wonderful.
>> and, of course, making this film about my mother. i had the opportunity to interview my siblings and my mother. and, you know, i think we go through life and there's not always the time to sit back, like you do, and be able to ask all the questions that we want to ask of our family. and, you know, it provided that moment, so that also gave me you know, deeper insights. and then, going through some incredible archival footage. i think, you know, i was very familiar with the outtakes that were in various films over the years. but to really go in and see the source material, that there is -- that's its own particular experience. and i have to say that one of the things that i found in going through that source material was that there was a genuineness to him, every step of the way.
>> did you ever listen to any of the old office conversations with lyndon johnson? >> i did listen to some of those. >> what was your reaction to the -- i mean, he talked about the vietnam war. >> he talked about the vietnam war. you know, i mean, i listened to a range of them, and i thought they were really fascinating and insightful. i remember one engagement where he was negotiating with his hair dresser to try to get a better fee from the hair dresser, johnson. so you know, he certainly -- he certainly provided insights to both his personal sensibility as well as some insight to vietnam and other -- >> your mom talks about her parents being republicans and conservatives and, obviously, on the other side, a liberals and democrats and all of that. how -- from what you know, what was the difference in the families?
because, as you say in the -- in your documentary, your mother's parents were well off. what made them republicans and what made the kennedys democrats? >> i don't know that i can capture that right now, right here. but i think -- you know, i think it comes from mostly along lineage from where they all came from. i think that from my father's side of the family, they're -- you know, going pretty far back, there had been an interest in public service and elected office and politics. i think that for my mother's side of the family that they were, honestly, kind of generally speaking, less interested in politics. and he -- my grandfather didn't go to college, and, you know, he was a very successful businessman and i think that his interests stem from kind of the business opportunities that he was pursuing, largely. so i think it was just a difference of backgrounds and
perspectives, largely. >> any of your siblings not want to talk in that documentary about your mom? >> almost all of my siblings spoke. there was -- there was -- one of my bothers decided not to. >> is there a reason why he didn't want to go on camera? >> i didn't ask him. i just -- i really just asked all of them, i told them what i was doing and i really left it up to them because i didn't want to really pressure anyone to do it if they didn't want to. and i thought it was so nice that so many of them -- i think, for everybody, it's not particularly comfortable to talk about ourselves and to talk about our family. and so i think that -- you know, but everybody has so much respect and admiration for my mother and they, i think, really wanted to recognize her and all her contributions. >> here's another documentary you did on abu ghraib. it's not long.
it's only about 45 seconds, and i want to ask you why you did this. >> ok. [video clip] >> at which point do you say it's enough? >> if there no photographs there would be no abu ghraib. there would be no investigation. >> you can do this, this, this this, stress positions, do whatever you want to do to him. we need that information. >> you will go crazy if you don't adapt to what you're seeing. >> it was never clear, to me what was allowed and what wasn't allowed in our rank. >> technically, unlawful combatants did not have any rights under the geneva convention. there is no such thing as a little bit of torture. >> ghosts of abu ghraib. >> that's seven years ago. why did you do that? is that hbo? >> it was hbo. you know, those images were -- had come out and i was
interested in understanding why people would choose to both take those photographs and engage in the horrific acts that we saw in those images and ask other people to do so. what i discovered -- and so the film really focuses on the people who took the photographs and what they did. and, you know, what i -- became very evident in talking to all of those people is that they were given pretty strong orders from pretty high above to engage in pretty -- in acts that were very similar to what we witnesses to break the prisoners down and to -- you know, when they -- when the prisoners came in to abu ghraib they were forced to be naked. that was one of the things that happened to all of the
prisoners. >> and so to prepare them for interrogations, they asked these young guards who were often 19 20 years old, that, you know, in order for us, the interrogators, to get the information, we need -- they need to be very vulnerable, by the time they come to us. so do whatever it takes to get them vulnerable. play high music, intimidate them, humiliate them, do whatever it takes. did they say, take -- you know put them in a pyramid and take these images? no. but they did kind of set the conditions for these events to take place. >> and, you know, one of, i think, the great tragedies about abu ghraib is that the people who ended up going to prison and serving time were all the people who were on the front lines. but the people who had the orders that came from the very top of the bush administration
never served any time or faced any repercussions. >> one last clip, back to the documentary on the "last days in vietnam" and this is the -- a minute of the -- too many people trying to get out of there. let's watch this and we'll wrap it up. [video clip] >> you'd ask questions like, is the crowd getting any smaller? when are we going to finish this? you know, and they say, you know, we're under orders from the ambassador. we're doing the best we can. >> carrier pilots were saying, look, it's an uncontrollable sea of people, and ambassador martin has lost his objectivity, that ambassador martin is trying to evacuate all of saigon through the u.s. embassy. but he was doing his best under terrible circumstances. >> ambassador martin was dragging out the evacuation as long as they could and get as many south vietnamese out as possible. each helicopter took about 40 people.
he knew that once the americans were gone, the evacuation would be over. so he just put one or two americans on each one. >> so what do you want people to take away from this? >> well, i think that this is such an important moment in our nation's history and so i think we should know what happened during those final days of the vietnam war. so i would like them to have that knowledge. and i think, you know, it's also a moment where they -- there were extraordinary people who did exceptional things. and it's really, you know within the context of our general and overall abandonment of the vietnamese. there were a handful of americans that would make you really proud.
and so i think it's worth, you know, celebrating them and witnessing their stories to help us, even on a deeper level understand what happened in vietnam. and then, i would say, lastly, you know, as we're getting out of these wars in iraq and afghanistan and there are people who are now made to be more vulnerable because of their association with the americans whether they, you know translators or agents who worked in the country, drivers, whoever it was, that we have a responsibility to them. >> and, you know, -- and it goes back to kind of, i think what powell said, you know, you break it, you fix it and you own it. and so i think that it's important to recognize the work that people have done on our behalf over the last 10 years in iraq and afghanistan and our responsibilities to them. and as we're debating getting into deeper engagements with isis, maybe, you know, getting
back into iraq, going into syria, that we have a proper understanding of what our exit strategy is. >> i shouldn't do this, we only have about a minute left. but the name lori candy -- rory kennedy does what positive things for you when you do a documentary and what negative things? what do you run into? >> well, i would say, largely, it's a positive. and i think that, you know there are certainly doors that have been opened to be because of my last name and people's connection to my family. i think that, you know, there are -- certainly, for on certain issues for certain people, there is more resistance or a sense that i come in with a particular sense of politics or, you know that i might bring to a film. and that was, to some degree the case with this. you know, there were people who were sensitive to who i was. but i think, you know, everybody we, ultimately, approached, came
around and agreed to speak with us. and some, you know, may have done it because of my last name, others were maybe a little more resistant. >> are you working on another documentary? >> i have a few that i'm >> are you working on another documentary? >> i have a few i'm developing in my head. i'm really dedicated to getting this film out as much as possible. >> "last days in vietnam" the name of the documentary. our guest is van rory kennedy. thank you very much. >> thank you brian. a pleasure. >> for free transcripts or to give us your comments about this program visit us at "q & a".org. programs are also avadeble at
c-span podcast. >> "q & a" is 10 years old and each interview from the last decadeas veil ble online at c-span.org. among the programs you'll find on our website interviews with journalist neil sheehan on the nuclear arms race during the cold war. robert timberg has experiences as a marine in vietnam and subsequently as a reporter and michael hastings who wrote an article in "rolling stone" that led to the resignation of general stanley mcchrystal. to see these and other q & a programming to c-span.org and search our video library. >> next, conversations with entrepreneurs and authors at this year's washington ideas forum. we'll hear first from the founder of not impossible labs
mick ebbeling. then an interview with joseph o'neill and gary shteyngart and then with chad dickerson. next, conversations from the 2014 washington ideas forum beginning with not impossible labs founder mick ebling on his efforts to bring prosthetics technology to sudan. this is about half an hour. >> hello. so everybody has a chapter one. my chapter one started with as steve mentioned this is tempt. tempt in the 1980's and 1990's was one of the foremost graffiti artists on the west coast. he came down with a disease called a.l.s. made very popular recently by the ice bucket challenge which is an amazing awareness campaign. my production company said well this year instead of giving our clients a silly